Test Ride in a Tesla

The electric roadster makes a quietly superchic debut in Nolita.

I’m sipping frothy pumpkin soup concocted by four-star chef Gray Kunz in a pristine white triplex at the Candle Building, 11 Spring Street, which used to be a street-art landmark before it was reborn as eight-figure luxury condos. I’ve just been introduced to some kind of envoy from Bahrain. No one is talking about the Dow’s sub-8,000 close at this semiprivate gathering thrown by Midtown Equities’ Steven Cayre, both as a very high-end open house, and to show off a little white battery-operated sports car parked outside that goes 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds.


Tesla went through layoffs a month or so ago, but it recently announced a new round of financing that should be able to see it through next year’s production run; this year’s is sold out, although only about 70 have been delivered to customers so far. Cayre, an environmental enthusiast who has been moving his father’s company toward more sustainable projects, is one of them. He generously offers me a spin around the block, and I quickly push away my wine glass.

With a chassis manufactured by Lotus in the UK, the car is so low and sleek, with a nipped-in waist, that you feel like you’re putting it on, not getting into it. It takes off silently, and is ultraresponsive. If you ease your foot off the brake, the engine greedily recaptures the energy and forward motion dies. Most exciting to me, since I’m not exactly a motorist, is the way it stops traffic. Random Nolita passerby already know its range–”About 200 miles, right?” and its namesake–“Nikola Tesla? That is so awesome!”

Senior sales manager Doreen Allen says a Tesla for the rest of us is coming by 2011—a domestically produced sedan at around half the six-figure cost of the roadster. It may not be a replacement for GM, but they make a pretty sweet ride.

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About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.